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October 31, 2010

Oooo ... Halloween!

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When one has got little kids, one has got to teach the important lessons of Halloween in the presence of other kids. Road trip time! We gathered together this weekend in Sartell for what is quickly becoming our family's favorite holiday.

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On Saturday morning, there was the usual trick o' treating at the local grocery store, Coborns (or, if you're Joel CoBurns or Cubburns).

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The kids scored a bag full of full-sized candy bars, packs of gum, freshly-baked
M&M cookies, and coupons!

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This year, Adelaide was her hero, Pippi Longstocking, for Halloween. Adelaide has had her heart set on being Pippi for almost six months, and I was wringing my hands about the Pippi hairdo when I remembered my St. Cloud theatre connections. Adelaide's Pippi wig is courtesy of my high school theatre coach, the sainted Rick Cicharz, who was a treasure then and is still a treasure now. In addition to getting Adelaide a brilliant wig for Halloween, Rick invited us to a production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves at my alma mater on Saturday afternoon. We enjoyed the show, entirely produced by Rick's middle-school students (with his excellent tutelage, of course). It was my favorite Halloween treat!

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There was sweet everywhere ... Erin came home from UW Superior to get spooky with us and enjoyed lots of time snuggling with Henry and her fella, Andrew.

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True to form, Marmee had a new Halloween cookie up her sleeve to create with any willing participants. This year's delight was a little acorn cookie crafted from a Hershey's Kiss, chocolate frosting and a mini Vanilla Wafer. What a cute way to keep everybody out of the Halloween candy stash!

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But I think Charles and Joel showed the true spirit of the season with an impromptu, but loving wrestling match.

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And then, the moment of truth, Trick-or-Treating! Marmee the Kleenex Box, Erin the Referee, Andrew the Basketball Player, Adelaide as Pippi, Owen the Giraffe, Henry the Pumpkin, Joel as Bertie Wooster, and Ophelia as Old Man the Horse (from Pippi).

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Pips and her Horse snuggle up during chilly trick-or-treating.

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Bertie captures his 'unkin for a quick mug before dashing off to snag more treats.

October 23, 2010

It's 'Unkin Carving Time!

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As we've already mentioned, Henry's favorite new vocab word is Pumpkin (or 'unkin). He uses it to describe anything rotund and orange, and - much to my delight - is understood by strangers and passers-by who happen to hear his Halloween-spirited utterance ... Ah, communication! Verbal communication! But, I digress ... So, tonight was the night that we pulled our four prize-winners out to the backyard to assist them in their holiday metamorphosis.

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Adelaide, who is a mighty four years-old and can snap through a pack of chewing gum and is working on spelling words like "Dog" and "Snow" and "Courageous Princess," is alas, to young to weald a chef's knife. But, she dug into cleaning out pumpkin guts with vim often seen in four year-olds unafraid of touching things like worms. Why was I surprised?

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Adelaide did use her washable marker to draw faces on two our our pumpkins, which Joel happily cut out. I think Joel was actually kind of relieved to have a year off from carving his usual pumpkin face.

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This year, we found that one of our pumpkins was already kind of rotten inside. Yuck. Still, we scooped out the yucky mess inside and Adelaide posed for a kind of Gross-Out Face with a tongue sticking out and eyes crossed. I attempted to copy her facials, but ended up with more of a Sinister-Looking Face than a Gross-Out Face. Adelaide tried to help by drawing "the line in the middle of your tongue" to clarify that the pumpkin is sticking out its tongue and not bearing its fangs, but I don't know ... Negative space is a tricky thing to master

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Boo to you!


October 19, 2010

Eggy Tart, Anyone?

Last week, Joel and I went out on one of our rare dates. Forgoing the usual margarita and movie fare, I signed us up to take a Tuesday evening cooking class at our nearby co-op. We'd chosen a class entitled "Classic French Dinner" and were prepared (based on the class description snippet) to learn to make a rustic quiche, trout medallion, and creme brulee.

'Twas the rustic quiche that caught our eye ... When we visited Paris five years ago, I did some foodie blog research before we went and gathered a list of must-try places. Among those places was the little Rose Bakery in Monmartre. Joel and I went there and fell head over heals with the charming, square-shaped Eggy Tarts, as we called them. You can imagine a flaky buttery shell with a soft, puffy center of egg and mushroom. Delicious.

After our trip, we'd tried to recreate the tarts a handful of times, but without much success. I am a baker of sorts like cookies and cakes, but never crusts. Pie crusts are a whole different world. Recently Joel has become our crust-maker when out-of-the-blue last fall he was inspired to make an apple tart. Now we clamor for it every autumn when the apples are in season.

So, we signed up for Tuesday's class with new hope that maybe if an actual French person taught us how to do crust that we'd have more success with our own Eggy Tart reproduction. During the class there was a lot of shrugging, inexact measuring, and unassuming reassuring (e.g., "It will be fine.") as the instructor made a rectangular pat of dough using butter, flour, and lukewarm water. There was folding and waiting and folding and waiting before the dough was plopped into a pie plate, pricked with a fork, and par baked in the oven. We had a tiny sliver of a sample of one that she'd made earlier in the day that was yummy with a grueyre and blue cheese filling. Our sample was tasty enough to make me encourage Joel to tackle the tart at home.

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To describe what Joel made, armed with our instructor's recipe, is an almost impossible feat.

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The crust was perfection, flaky and crisp, but the fluffy souffle-like Grueyre filling stole the quiche. I would eat it everyday. This is one recipe for the books.

October 13, 2010

Learn to Walk!

As previously documented, Henry is running as much as he is walking these days, but with his mobility has come a subtle new hesitancy and deliberation. He runs, yes, but careful observation reveals that he runs on flat surfaces without edges or drop-offs. Maybe this isn't so surprising- he runs on surfaces that are easy to run on. But the tricky conflict comes when you consider that back when he was crawling and barely walking, he crawl/walked anywhere and everywhere. He would crawl/walk into a storm sewer if we didn't keep track of him. Now that he's running he simply avoids places that aren't fun for running. He'll run up to the edge of the concrete slab in the backyard, look out at the lumpy sloped grass of the rest of the back yard, think "Screw that," (or some toddler equivalent), turn, and run back the way he came. As his world has grown, so it has shrunk.

When you think about it, walking and running cut against wisdom. By rearing up on our hind legs, we're taking our head and suspending it 5-7 feet above the hard (and sometimes spiky!) surface of the earth. The throne of our humanity, the seat of that greatest of Earthly mysteries, human consciousness, is thrust up into the air where any casually thrown rock can crack against it and any prolonged bout of drinking can bring it crashing to the ground. It's pretty daring, walking. If we wanted to play it safe, we should creep along on all fours, perhaps crawling at an angle and leading with one shoulder to keep our brain-cases shielded from both on-coming and rear-approaching threats.

The prospect of walking becomes even more perilous when you consider how bad people are at it. I work in a large hospital complex, and my job often requires that I do a lot of walking along ten-foot wide corridors, clumping up and down stairs, grabbing elevators, and weaving in and out of human traffic. During these years I have been mentally compiling a list of guidelines that, if followed, may allow people to, finally, learn to walk.

1) Allow for two-way traffic and passing.
This rule applies most often to our brothers and sisters who are wide people, people of Girth and their children of Girthian descent. Several times a week I'll find myself walking behind a group of these people as they are chubb-chubb-chubbilin' along down the hallway, two or even three abreast. If they are two walking side-by-side, in order to pass I'll have to dart into the oncoming lane. If three abreast, then the spectacle becomes one of people squeezing past them in both directions, turning their bodies sideways to sneak past the obstructionists, like minnows navigating a rocky stream. Of course, the obstructionists need not be people of Girth. A phalanx of svelte teenagers sauntering down the hall five abreast (like they own the place!) is just as effective. People! If you are large, walk single file!

2) Don't stand and talk in the middle of the hallway.
Other than their presence in hallways, I have nothing against people of Girth. In terms of actual rudeness, a pair of wide people walking side-by-side doesn't compare to the rudeness exhibited by two people, spying each other in a busy hallway then stopping in the middle to have a nice long chat. And yet, if you throw your shoulder into the ribcage of one of the conversationalists, guess who would be charged with assault? Where is the justice?

3) Don't cut the corner.
I know the temptation is strong. You're in a hurry. Maybe you just squeezed by a couple of wide people walking together and then ran smack into an impromptu departmental conference being held in the middle of the hallway, and you're trying to make up time. You come to an intersection and need to turn left, so, rather than staying on the right side of the hallway, you cut the corner. Maybe you get away with it that time. But, sooner or later, you're going to cut the corner and run into somebody. And by "somebody" I mean me, and I'll be carrying stacks of trays filled with glass slides of sick people's tissues or, true story, a bag with an amputated leg in it. Congratulations, you just got poked by an amputated leg. But, hey, you saved 0.4 seconds by cutting the corner, jackass.

4) Don't charge the elevator.
Little known fact about waiting for an elevator: the longer you've had to wait for the elevator, and the more impatient you are to get in the elevator, the greater the chance that your elevator contains somebody who needs to get off at your floor. And if, rather than waiting for them to disembark, you charge through the elevator doors as they are opening, you'll run into that person. And then, rather than smartly slapping the button for the floor that you're so anxious to get to, you'll have to sigh huffily and do an awkward do-si-do with the incredibly inconsiderate person who for some inconceivable reason is trying to get off at the floor you were just on. Why would anyone want to be on that floor? You've just spent three minutes waiting for an elevator to get off that floor. That floor is for suckface losers! And yet, there's this person, trying to get off on that floor. Amazing.

Hmmph. After writing up these rules, I've come to the conclusion that it's unrealistic for me to expect people to abide by them. People can't even agree to drive without texting. Come to think of it, maybe I should take a page out of Henry's book. The next time I need to get somewhere, I should just take the (always empty) stairs down to the ground floor, find a nice flat space that travels in the direction I'm headed, and run.

October 7, 2010

Going to the Doctor

Why does it seem like we're always sick???

I'll tell you why:

a) these kids,

b) our jobs,

c) too much Oktoberfest,

d) our healthcare attitudes.

The correct answer is D.

The normal, average person would go into the clinic after the second, maybe third day of feeling uncomfortable. But, Joel and I - convinced that pretty much everything we're struck down with is a virus, and therefore untreatable with any do-good kind of medicine - will always wait that seven-to-ten days for the common cold to shift its form and go away.

I came home from work last Sunday with a feeling of malaise and fatigue that I was sure was the beginning of a cold that Henry's been working around for a week or two. On Monday, the alleged cold took over my throat, as colds are wont to do with my old broken-down, tonsils, and Joel came home from work feeling crummy. Here's the thing, the symptoms never changed: always fevery, always a painful, sore throat, and always tired. But, we waited. And waited. And waited. Just smelling of sickness and crabbers.

Who wants to be that dork in the waiting room, waiting all day to be seen and then turned away without much more than a pat on the back because of a Virus? What a time suck when there are carpets to be vacuumed, kids to be played with, and dogs to be groomed. "I'm getting better," I kept thinking as I stayed close to my every three hour Tylenol and Ibuprofen regime.

And then, Adelaide spiked a temperature of 103, complained of a tummy ache, and could barely speak because of her thick throat. So, we took her in yesterday and she swabbed positive for Strep Throat. We walked off with a ten-day prescription for antibiotics.

After another painful night's sleep, Joel and I awoke to a chipper, bouncy Adelaide (two doses into her antibiotic therapy) and the green-eyed monster reared its warty head. "Iwannafeelbetter, too!" I whined to Joel. "Metoo!" He whined back. So, we made an appointment and took our first dose of antibiotics this afternoon. I don't feel better just yet, but I am waiting. I know that the reserves are on the way. But, what a time suck this entire week of suffering turned out to be!

And what about Hal? Apparently, little, little kids don't really get Strep Throat. He's as happy as a clam, walking around and testing his new, season-appropriate vocab word: 'unkin.

October 2, 2010

Oktoberfest

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It's Oktoberfest in Amana! Last night, we gathered with some friends downtown Iowa City on Clinton Street to take in the Hawkeye Homecoming Parade (Go Hawks!) and we were encouraged to continue to the festive fun for Oktoberfest in Amana today. For our family, festivities kicked off at about 10 a.m. when we joined our friends T, Craig, Lexi and Katiya at the Oktoberfest parade.

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The weather this morning was beautiful and clear, augmented by a brisk Autumn wind. The kids were in great spirits, armed with pumpkins (cleverly provided by T) for candy collection. The parade was awesome with cool old cars, magical floats, clomping Clydesdales, and our favorite: marching bands!

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After the parade, just before 11 a.m., we started off toward Millstream. It's Oktoberfest and never too early for a beer! We found a cozy niche outside of the Colony Inn Restaurant, where the proprietors set up charming straw bale benches before an oomp-pa band (Mike and his Rhythm-aires, consisting of a trap set, a sax, a tuba, and an accordion). We settled into the front row, grabbed an Oktoberfest, and tapped our toes to polkas and waltzes for the next hour and a half.

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Adelaide and Lexi practiced their freestyle dance moves (although I caught Adelaide doing "Shuffle-Step" from her dance class a couple of times ... In Ugs, too!). Henry's imagination was captured by all the festive displays of pumpkins, gourds, and mums, but danced around a little bit, much to the admiration of the Elder crowd.

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There were plenty of brats, hot dogs, and sauerkraut (which I tasted for the first time today in a spirit of festive cultural immersion! Good!) for sale, but due to the pork content, Joel had to be satisfied with a Bavarian pretzel and cup of Hot German Potato Salad for lunch. The potato salad was delish, but what was that pinkish mystery meat nestled among the potatoes, Joel? Don't ask, and we won't tell ... (wink, wink).

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To cap off our Oktoberfest, we flapped our wings to the Chicken Dance, before heading off to the Old Creamery Theatre to take in a local children's theatre production of Hansel and Gretel (or as Adelaide said, "Hansome and Gretel"). It was a great day!